Real home: centuries old cottage full of vintage finds and timeless, rustic style | Real Homes

Real home: centuries old cottage full of vintage finds and timeless, rustic style

When January Grundy swapped a new-build house for a historic cottage she couldn't wait to maximise its character with antique finds and vintage curios

oudoor dining in an 18th century cottage garden
(Image credit: Colin Poole)

Moving from a newly built house to a 250-year-old cottage gave January Grundy the perfect opportunity to indulge her passion for collecting antiques and vintage treasures. Read on to find out how she curates her finds and turns them into the real stars of her interior schemes, and see how they often spill out into her pretty cottage garden, too, creating talking points inside and outside the home.  

Are you passionate about preserving historic homes and collecting antiques and vintage items? Perhaps you are planning your own renovation and redecoration of a period property. We have masses of ideas and helpful advice on what to do and where to start in our feature on house renovation.

18th century cottage

Top of January’s kitchen wishlist was a white Everhot range cooker, and the cabinets, hand built by a local carpenter, were designed around it. She stuck with the classic look, using white metro tiles from Topps Tiles and rustic-style black cupboard handles and ironmongery. The enamel sign is from a secondhand shop in Horncastle, Lincolnshire

(Image credit: Colin Poole)
THE STORY

Owners: January Grundy, a GP’s secretary, lives here with her husband Howard, a driving instructor, their son, Jonny, 14, and Clarence the collie. Their daughters, Holly, 27, and Poppy, 25, live nearby 
Property: An 18th-century cottage near Diss, Norfolk. The three-bedroom property includes a small extension
added in the 20th century  
What they did: The couple replaced the kitchen, and upgraded the bathroom. The décor has been updated with easy-on-the-eye colours and a sympathetic mix of Scandi, rustic and decorative French-style pieces 

Settled with her family in Buckinghamshire, January Grundy never imagined she’d find herself moving house and changing jobs. A change in circumstances, however, gave her and husband Howard the chance to reshape their lives and they decided to grasp the opportunity and fulfil a long-held dream. Howard retrained for a different career, and the couple relocated with the children to a newly built house in Norfolk.

‘We’d holidayed in the county for years and loved the peace, the coastline and the big skies,’ says January. ‘It’s a wonderful part of the world, but I’ve always preferred older properties and I never really settled in the new house we chose. It just didn’t quite feel like home to me.’

January kept her eye on the local housing market for some years until, in 2014, a 250-year-old cottage in a rural setting caught her attention. The couple went to view it, and January had a positive feeling before she even stepped inside. ‘It was tucked down a little lane, in a gorgeous position,’ she says. ‘There wasn’t much in the garden, but it was a good size, and had masses of potential.’

Inside, the cottage was tired and unloved, with a makeshift kitchen, old floor coverings and dingy décor. However, January was taken by its well-proportioned rooms, quirky layout and classic country cottage character. 

18th century cottage

January painted the weatherboarded porch with Cuprinol Garden Shades in Black Ash, and used Misty Lawn from the same range for contrast on the front door and garden gate, which is just the right height for Clarence the collie to peep over

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

January and Howard agreed to go ahead and moved into the cottage with their son Jonny. Daughters Holly and Poppy were living independently by this time. ‘I loved the ceiling beams, the living room fireplace and the thick, bumpy walls with their soft, rounded corners,’ January says. ‘I didn’t want to change any of that.’ The first job was to pull up the worn carpets and paint all the rooms white. Since then, January has put her own personal stamp on the interiors as she and Howard have gradually refreshed and updated each room. 

dog on threshold of 18th century cottage

Clarence waits patiently on the doorstep for his afternoon walk

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

‘The cosy, rustic look is definitely me, but my style is a bit of a mix,’ she says, ‘I’m a fan of clean, whites and simple, Scandi-inspired interiors, and I like painted French-style decorative touches too.’

door into kitchen in 18th century cottage

The covered porch doubles as a kind of summerhouse, where the couple can sit and admire the garden. Howard laid a flagstone floor and fitted a bench in the porch to make the space more practical. The cushion is Sam Wilson’s Headlong Hare design, bought from Bells of Suffolk; the plant stand is from a junk shop in Horncastle

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

Alterations to the cottage have ranged from simple redecoration to a bathroom refurbishment including new sanitaryware, tiles and flooring. The living room walls were repainted in a deep, rich cream shade, while the guest room has recently been transformed with a dramatic dark grey. ‘I’d seen similar schemes in magazines,’ says January. ‘Just changing the colour has made a big difference and has really given the room its own identity.’ 

kitchen in an 18th century cottage

January combined salvaged, painted chairs with a chunky oak bench for a relaxed vibe around the dining table, which the family use every day. ‘Our existing table was too long, but I spotted this one on Ebay,’ she says. ‘I wanted something old, with character, and this was just the right size.’  The mirror, which January repainted, came from their previous house and helps give the illusion of space in the dining area. The console table below it is part of a dresser and is painted in Annie Sloan’s Paris Grey

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

By far the biggest transformation was in the kitchen, as January explains: ‘It was very basic, just some old cupboards, an electric cooker and a stainless-steel sink, but we lived with it for nearly three years. I always knew exactly what I wanted in its place, though.’ 

What she had in mind was a solid, country-style kitchen with wooden worktops and cabinets, a chunky range cooker and a big, farmhouse-type ceramic sink. Armed with pictures torn from magazines to illustrate her ideas, she tracked down a local carpenter who was able to interpret her vision accurately.

china cabinet in an 18th century cottage

The wall cupboard was added later, because January wanted somewhere to display her collection of blue and white china 

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

‘He really understood what I was asking for, and it’s turned out just as I wanted,’ she says. ‘The wall cupboard was an afterthought, added later, because I wanted somewhere to display china. As the room is not that big, I was concerned it might feel cluttered, but I think it’s worked well.’

Living room in an 18th century cottage

The wood-burner in the living room was already in place and Howard made the surround from reclaimed wood, currently painted in Farrow & Ball’s Cooking Apple Green. ‘I’ve painted it several times,’ says January. ‘It’s been black, grey and now green, which works well for spring and summer, but I might change it again later in the year.’ The cream sofas came with them from their previous home; Laura Ashley’s Gloucester sofa is similar

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

living room in an 18th century cottage

The living room walls are painted with Dulux’s Beach Walk, which makes a gentle backdrop for some of January’s more unusual pieces. Above the sofa is a curious wooden item found in a reclamation yard. January thinks it’s part of an oak roof support from a church

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

living room in an 18th century cottage

The French sign came from La Maison years ago. The painted metal trunk, another vintage find, doubles as a coffee table 

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

tea in an 18th century cottage

‘I love blue and white china, especially Spode’s Blue Italian design,’ says January, ‘I’ve been collecting it since Howard and I were first married.’ 

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

The move from a spacious new-build to a quirky period property required a few adjustments and compromises. January and Howard brought larger furniture items, like sofas and beds, from their previous home, although they had to let go of a much-loved dresser that was too bulky for the dining area. Fortunately, the couple’s bed could be dismantled to fit up the narrow stairs. January also brought various mirrors, tables, glassware and unusual accessories, including her treasured collection of vintage enamel signs. 

bedroom in an 18th century cottage

The bed in the main bedroom is from Laura Ashley. January found the bedside tables in a local house-clearance shop and painted them. ‘They aren’t quite identical, but I like that – it adds character,’ she says

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

‘I’ve always liked collecting old, pre-loved things that have a past and a story,’ she says. ‘I’m very happy browsing at brocantes and antiques fairs, and I prefer local independent antiques and interiors shops to the high street.’ 

bedroom with dark walls in an 18th century cottage

The guest bedroom is on the ground floor, in a small, modern extension to the original cottage. January changed the walls from white to Farrow & Ball’s Down Pipe, a dark grey that contrasts well with the white furniture and the pretty, painted metal candelabra. The mustard-yellow cushions are from Weaver Green 

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

18th century cottage

The guest room has a door out to the garden but, as it is never used, January framed it with curtains from John Lewis. An old salvaged table and a Lloyd Loom chair that belonged to Howard’s father create an interesting display. The ladder came from an antiques shop and is handy for accessing the small sleeping platform above 

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

bathroom in an 18th century cottage

The bathroom has had a mini makeover. The couple added a shower, put in a new handbasin and WC from B&Q, and fitted new vinyl flooring from Carpetright. The vintage sign came from a junk-shop

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

bathroom in an 18th century cottage

Howard fitted tongue-and-groove wall panelling and a matching bath panel to add texture and interest to the room 

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

It may have taken January and Howard a while to find the right place to settle, but they have brought the cottage back to life and turned it into a true family home. ‘Moving here was the best thing we ever did,’ says January, ‘I love going to visit friends and family in other parts of the country, but I’m always glad to come home.’

18th century cottage

The big garden shed was already here. January painted it in Black Ash, as before, and has plans to turn it into a craft workshop. She found the enamel sign some years ago on one of many trips to the antiques centres in Horncastle, Lincolnshire

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

garden seat with storage

January added extra seating in all corners of the garden to create shady areas and sunny spots so she and Howard can enjoy their outdoor space all day long. This arbour bench seat includes a handy storage box under the seat. Try the Cheltenham Arbour from YouGarden for similar

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

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